This blog post is co-authored by Ian Zucker, Beata Francis and Peter Stewart
It all started with a QAAC and it ended with a CALF. This is a story of how we collaboratively developed a curriculum framework for the FEIT on the ground to appease the approvers both inside and outside the yard.
2021: three big bangs!
In November 2021, the QAAC (Quality Assurance and Accreditation Coordinator) reached out to the Teaching and Learning Design Team for assistance on addressing an Engineers Australia (EA) accreditation recommendation, requiring evidence of a ‘developmental taxonomy’. Internal accreditation was gearing up and quickly becoming a centre of many conversations, and another external accreditation (the Australian Computer Society; ACS) was not too far off either. This led to three ‘big bangs’:
💥⒈ Someone suggested looking at the overlap between the requirements for internal accreditation and external accreditation (EA and ACS) and answer the question: what are the commonalities and how can we do something once (instead of the same thing three different times, in three different ways)?
💥 ⒉ We had a realisation that there is no standard or document that articulates what an engineering graduate needs to have learned upon graduation that can simply be ticked off a list; IT majors have some guidance on required skills and knowledge. It is therefore up to us (the faculty) to determine what a professional has learned and is able to do upon graduation, then rigorously defend that position.
💥 ⒊ We tried to use our graduate attributes as the output and work backwards by asking what would the graduate attributes look like at three different levels: foundational; developing; pre-professional for undergraduate/professional; professional advanced for postgraduate subjects. This proved insurmountable and unachievable. However, when the graduate attributes were contextualised with a project (broadly, in a generic sense) the task became doable and served as the first iteration of what was then known as the FEIT Curriculum Framework.
2022: consultations and connections
In the early half of 2022 we turned to existing frameworks and the literature on higher education to bolster the FEIT Curriculum Framework: AQF, SOLO taxonomy, the Cynefin Framework and the UTS WIL Quality Framework. We deliberately adopted a consultative approach to further develop the FEIT Curriculum Framework, including getting the language right and developmental levels clearly distinguishable.
Throughout 2022, we engaged a range of stakeholders who we envisioned would take up the Framework and use it in their own context. We integrated their feedback and expanded the existing framework beyond Graduate Attributes at developmental levels to also include Assessment and Teaching. This instigated a renaming of the Framework to CALF (Curriculum, Assessment and Learning Framework).
2023: CALFination of the Core
At this point the CALF has been socialised within the faculty and has received positive uptake but hasn’t been applied to a whole program or with any rigour yet.
The Engineering Core, colloquially known as ‘The Core’, were required to redesign their suite of subjects and do so as a mini-program. They had their own benchmarks, requirements and design constraints. What they did not have was a clear structure and language to describe what the student learning journey would look like from first year, first semester to graduation. What came next is an abridged reflection of how the Core served as the first application of the CALF. The result is a ‘CALFination’.
Taking a collaborative approach, our team sought to elicit all the things an engineer needs to be able to know and do upon graduation (regardless of engineering discipline). Our approach brought to light not only (learning) outcomes but also through discussion, the kind of learning activities used to support student learning and how we might assess those outcomes.
Throughout the workshops, we’d refer to our CALF one-pager to remind ourselves what each developmental level aims to do and why. It was also a reminder that, like all frameworks, the CALF should be applied generously and not in absolute terms. By the end of the collaborative seminars, we had not only the SLOs, subject description, T&L Strategies and Assessment structure all constructively aligned (vertically, within subjects, horizontally across subjects). This was nothing short of a Herculaneum effort.
Next steps: CALF from above
With the Engineering Core work completed we set our sights on the next big task: apply the CALF to 14 undergraduate and 7 postgraduate majors for Engineers Australia external accreditation.
In FEIT, we have a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs that are externally accredited. Applying the CALF to programs that already exist is done through a method of evaluation, which we call ‘CALF from Above’. This means asking: what is the developmental level of each subject in the wider sequence of the curriculum? In other words, if we think a subject is ‘foundational’, is it taught in a foundational way, with foundational learning outcomes and foundational assessments? And does this subject lead on to a Developmental and culminate in a Pre-Professional subject?
The power of the CALF is multiple – it was collaboratively built. Working with program coordinators coupled with an evaluative disposition has proven to be an exciting and effective approach, with conversations shifting from ‘curriculum real estate’ to ‘curriculum developmental levels’. Colleagues from across FEIT see their contributions represented in the framework, and the language of the framework is easy to pick up and exercise. Approaching the FEIT Graduate Attributes through developmental levels has opened the possibility for new ways of thinking about curriculum. And, finally, having only one framework for three accrediting bodies is a win for everyone.